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The 5 challenges facing car dealers in 2021 – and how marketing automation can help

15 February 2021
by Force24

With many automotive brands battling against the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic and lockdown restrictions forcing dealerships to close, there’s no surprise that industry figures have shown that UK new car sales have fallen by 40% in January.

The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) forecasts that 2021 will be a challenging year for many of the sector’s businesses. That also means there’s never been a more critical time to make every single piece of customer communication count.

Having several automotive brands on our books – including Perrys, Lloyd Motor Group, and Hartwell – we’re anticipating an ‘intense battlefield’ when it comes to dealers speaking to prospects and transforming them into loyal consumers.

Like many sectors, the automotive industry has turned to technology in order to give them a competitive edge. That’s something we’ve seen here at Force24 as more brands enquire about the powers of marketing automation technology.

So, what are the key challenges that car brands will have to face throughout the next 12 months? And how can advance digital comms tools help? Here are 6 pointers for dealers to consider…

1. The new car supply conundrum

Due to Covid-19, customers are experiencing longer waiting times for new car orders following the closure of showrooms and the travel restrictions currently in place. This means brands are having to make sure they’re engaging their audience effectively in order to update them on progress of their vehicle and set realistic delivery dates.

A marketing automation platform can greatly help when managing customer expectations. At Force24, we help manufacturers to maintain comms so that each buyer knows the status of their order and what the next steps entail – providing confidence and peace of mind that their vehicle is on its way.

Find out how we helped Perrys to transform a ‘new car’ customer event into an online success mid-pandemic – and save 95% of costs as a result.

2. An increased demand in used cars

This is where some dealers will fare better than others. With less people wanting to take public transport due to safety concerns in today’s world, we’re seeing an uplift in individuals wanting to purchase used cars to get around.

Automotive brands can respond positively to this piece of information by interacting with prospects in a way that appeals to their of-the-moment interests. For example, could content around the latest used cars be of interest? Or a sophisticated email sequence which covers each step on what to expect when purchasing a pre-owned vehicle – from the initial research all the way to maintenance.

Providing consumers with the digital comms they want to receive – thanks to analysis directly from automated technology – goes a long way to individuals feeling understood. This can also help the dealer to spot when a timely phone call is the next touchpoint, plugging in their sales representatives as a result.

3. Aftersales remains critical

MOTs will still be a legal requirement, but we believe servicing cars will become less important to car owners – because fewer people are travelling during Lockdown 3.0.

So, when aftersales has the power to provide real competitive edge, how can businesses tap into a market that isn’t as interested in them now as they might’ve been 12 months ago?

Utilising marketing automation technology, manufacturers can track customer engagement – whether they’ve interacted with a particular page on a brand’s website or downloaded a guide so that real-time comms can be sent to the right person, at the right time.

Additionally, we advise that companies craft relevant content which provides insight and support in how to maintain vehicles – from understanding GAP insurance to investing in scuff protection – and perhaps offer free health checks and other incentives to generate a greater level of engagement.

4. Understand that budgets are tight

Although sales were still strong in 2020, the automotive sector has taken a hit in footfall when showrooms have been shut. So, every single piece of information counts when it comes to understanding a customer’s real-time needs.

Recently, we’ve seen a big shift in the amount of research that’s carried out online by prospects – prior to a car sale – and we anticipate this will increase throughout 2021 as online shopping continues to soar.

Striking while the iron is hot is imperative here, and manufacturers can give themselves an advantage by accessing marketing automation’s ‘lead scoring’ metric. This is something that evaluates every individual’s engagement and helps marketers to understand when to plug in their sales team, so they can conduct a personal, relevant phone call for that all-important human touchpoint.

5. Step away from ‘batch and blast’ messages

This might be unfamiliar to many brands, but what we mean by this term is that it’s critical to avoid delivering marketing emails that are sent out to absolutely everyone. Not only does it imply ‘laziness’ but results in a message that’s loosely received by all and therefore provides a truly impersonalised experience all round – not to mention a waste of time to a time-strapped business and its marketing department!

During lockdown, many dealerships are running ‘click and collect’ services to drive sales in a streamlined and safe way. So, rather than sending multiple, bland email campaigns that land straight into a recipient’s spam folder, we advise that automotive brands should firstly understand what each customer wants – and tailor accordingly to ensure relevant comms are being received.

It goes beyond a ‘Hello [first name]’ too. Plugging in a savvy marketing automation platform can help brands to deliver hyper-individualised emails – and these can often be the difference between a vital purchase being made and a competitor stealing a march.

Learn how to create hyper-personalised email sequences here.

This year is about ‘survival of the fittest’ for many dealer groups. They’ve started 2021 in an extremely tough position, like many industries throughout the globe. The pandemic has potentially caused an even larger ‘David and Goliath’ battle between different sized businesses too, but that doesn’t mean the writing’s already on the wall for those that might not have giant-sized budgets.

What’s important for automotive brands now is that they focus on delivering a seamless customer experience, complete with comms that appeal to the right person, at the right time and via their preferred channel. Yes, marketing is an investment, but could automation prove to be the best solution to support a car dealer when times are tough? We hope so!


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